Behind the curtains, local issues have always been dominant, be it for water supply or for getting the right vendor or most importantly, for economic viability. Central Railway GM S.K. Sood explains, “Firstly, we need to ensure the right quality of clean linen as per the given set of standards. Secondly, we have to keep it under the budget of `25 per use which was fixed about 15 years ago and had not been revised over the period.”
The washing costs then were merely `12-15 per bedroll and the rest was the cost of linen. By 2005-06, the cost had increased to around `30. Resultantly, the quality of cleaning too was not satisfactory.
“This was the time to economies and resale the cleaning & hygiene of linen and time to have in-house laundries based on economy of scale. The economy of scale in laundry helped reduce our cost from `30 to `18-20.
However, now the cost is almost `25. This includes the cost of bedrolls too. Considering the approximate lifespan of a bedroll at 100 washes, the capital cost per bedroll is around `5 per use and washing at `20-21. We might have to increase charges post two to three years.”
“We have two types of laundries — front loading washer extractor and the Tunnel laundry system. This system is very economical compared to manual washing.”
Mechanized laundries have already been set up in the yards at Mumbai, Howrah, Sealdah, two in Kamakhya, Lucknow, Varanasi, Jammu Tawi, Secunderabad, Hyderabad, Tatanagar, Indore, Junagarh, Durg, Bilaspur, Samastipur, Danapur and Jabalpur, including three state-of-the-art laundries on Built Own Operate Transfer (BOOT) model through private investment at Chennai, Ahmadabad and Wadi Bunder (Mumbai). From 2013-14 till date, 13 additional mechanized laundries have been set up.
Western Railway, the biggest linen consumer among all the 16 zones, has five in-house laundries with a total capacity of washing 31,000 bedrolls daily. This includes a laundry each at Ahmedabad (16,000 bedrolls daily), Mumbai (6,000/day), Indore (4,000/day), Junagadh (3,000/day) and Surat (2,000/day).
The railways architecture is fascinating. So many variables! Some of the divisions have got no laundry facilities while some have multiple. Vashishta Johri, GM-Southern Railway, explains, “Gradually we are shifting to our own in-house laundries to various models – either we set up departmentally or under BOOT. Laundry requirements at a location depend on the number of major trains originating from there. This is because linen is loaded to trains at their originating points.”
“The South Central Railway (SCR) has got two mechanised laundries at Kacheguda and Secunderabad. Recently installed 12-tonne mechanised laundry has a capacity of washing 24,000 bedsheets, 12,000 face towels and 12,000 pillow covers per day. It is expected to meet the requirements of Secunderabad and Hyderabad divisions of the zone,” says S. Siddeshwara Rao, EME-Planning, SCR..
“Installation of mechanised laundry @ IR helped sustain the cost of bedroll cum wash for approximately 20-25 years.”